Was the Pfizer vaccine privately brought into the country?
One south businessman Clint Arjoon yesterday reported to the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Roshan Parasram and the Ministry of Health officials that one company secured and imported Pfizer vaccines last month.
Arjoon, who owns the Clint Arjoon Group of Companies, was on a morning programme early yesterday and made the unchallenged claim.
While Pfizer has World Health Organisation (WHO) approval, it still has to be gazetted and checked by the Medical Board before it is legally allowed in this country.
In an interview after his appearance on the morning programme, Arjoon said that he was just in contact with the Ministry of Health officials and gave them the name of the private company that he claimed brought in the Pfizer vaccine.
“I have been in communication with them right now because the information that I brought out this morning (yesterday) was not to create havoc or mischief in any way. It was nothing even on my agenda, It just so happened it was one of the questions that were asked,” he said.
“I just happened to remember that,” he said.
“That information came to me about a month ago,” he said.
Arjoon said he gave the CMO the name of the company but would not reveal it to the public “until they make use of it”.
“They will act on it,” Arjoon said,
The CMO was asked about the claim at the ministry’s COVID-19 update and called on anyone with more information to make contact, which was when Arjoon first notified the ministry.
At the Health update, the CMO said that if Pfizer vaccinations were brought into the country, it was done illegally.
“It has not been imported through Government, legal channels. I have confirmed with the head of the Food and drug this morning (yesterday) that no request has been made to his department for importation and no approval has therefore been given,” Parasram said.
“So if someone brought in Pfizer, it would be through illegal channels,” he said.
Parasram also asked for those with information on this issue to come forward.
In the Morning Edition yesterday, Arjoon said that he knew a company that brought in Pfizer but gave no other details and was not pressed for details on the issue.
Last Saturday, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley talked about the access to the Pfizer vaccines by private companies and said that the Government never told the private sector that they could not access the vaccines. He said that as a sovereign state, T&T was alongside others trying to get vaccines, but they just were not available commercially.
He said then that there were no restrictions on the private sector trying to get the vaccines. He said that he would be the happiest person in the world if any private sector company could come forward and say they have been able obtain vaccines that were WHO approved and properly “chain of custodied”’ from supplier to delivery.
Meanwhile, Parasram said that all vaccines approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO) will be approved for use in T&T.
Parasram said that Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Sinopharm are already approved for use in T&T with Moderna and Johnson & Johnson next on the list.
“We are trying to keep abreast of what is happening by WHO standards and their approval and we are considering the vaccine even before they are scheduled to come into the country.
Parasram said the medical advisory board was looking at the WHO-approved vaccines preemptively and making sure everything the as okay with it.
“In the event that negotiations go quickly, we have already crossed that hurdle.
So with Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Sinopharm, we have already approved, and we are going toward Moderna and possibly Johnson & Johnson in the near future”.
With regards to the highly transmissible and deadly Indian variant of the Covid-19 virus, which was reported to be found in Venezuela, Parasram that the WHO has not confirmed that as accurate.
“As of yesterday (Tuesday) they confirmed that the only variant in Venezuela is the P1 variant,” he said.
Parasram said that the same health measures are used with any variant that comes into a country.
The CMO is also warning to not examine this week’s COVID-19 positive figures because the two holidays broke up the testing ability. The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) is closed on Sundays and public holidays.
“We are seeing some smaller numbers in the daily reported figures, we have a broken week in terms of the holidays,” he said.
“So some of the figures would be a little askew this week. I think we wait until next week, don’t let the figures be a real guide,” he said.
Parasram said the epidemiologic curve actually examines and notes swab dates, which gives a better indication of the figures.
“And we have begun to see a slowing,” he said.
The country is currently in the second week of the State of Emergency and Parasram said that “hopefully” the numbers coming down.
“But we have to be cautious that if we have large outbreaks occurring at the same time you can have 200 people infected at the same time which actually creates a lot of contacts and can get that number up quickly,” he said.